Nathan Lyon took five wickets as Australia beat Pakistan by 115 runs in the third and final Test to claim a 1-0 series triumph.

There was nothing to separate the sides in the opening two Tests and the decider also went the distance, with Australia claiming victory inside the final session in Lahore.

Off-spinner Lyon posted figures of 5-83 in Pakistan's second innings, including the wickets of Imam-ul-Haq, Azhar Ali and Babar Azam, while Pat Cummins picked up three for 23.

Pakistan required 278 runs heading into Friday's session at the Gaddafi Stadium, but they only managed 163 as they folded 235 all out in their reply to Australia's target of 351.

The hosts' hopes were boosted as they reached lunch on 136-2, with Abdullah Shafique (27) and Azhar Ali (17) the first to fall.

But momentum shifted when Pakistan lost the wickets of Imam-ul-Haq, who led the scoring with 70 runs, Fawad Alam (11) and Mohammad Rizwan (0) in quick succession

However, replays showed that Rizwan would have survived had he reviewed the umpire's LBW decision.

Babar, the hero in Pakistan's record fightback in the second Test, made a contribution of 55 runs before being caught by Steve Smith off the bowling of Lyon.

Pakistan's remaining four wickets went for just 22 runs, with Lyon taking Ali Hasan (13) for his fifth wicket and Cummins cleaning up Naseem Shah (1) to complete the job.


Lyon leads from the front

Pakistan's stunning resistance in the second Test and strong start to their second innings in Lahore always meant this thrilling contest was going to go to the wire.

Australia prevailed with an hour to spare in the end thanks in large to Lyon, whose 5-83 from 37 overs will go down as one of his most important Test hauls.


Rare Lahore loss for Pakistan

Australia have lost just one of their last 11 Tests against Pakistan, with this just the hosts' second loss in 13 Tests at Gaddafi Stadium, and a first since 2002 (v Sri Lanka).

This is the Baggy Greens' first away Test series win since beating New Zealand in 2016, meanwhile, and a first in Asia in 11 years.

Australia skipper Pat Cummins has confirmed they will go in with an unchanged line-up for the series-deciding third Test against Pakistan in Lahore starting on Monday.

The tourists backed spinners Nathan Lyon and Mitchell Swepson despite both bowling in excess of 50 overs in the second innings of the second Test which ended in a draw on Wednesday.

Conditions are expected to be similar in Lahore as they were in the previous two Tests with Karachi and Rawalpindi, where only 42 wickets fell overall.

"We were really happy with how all 11 players went last Test," Cummins told reporters on Sunday.

"Everyone has pulled up really well. We gave them an extra couple of days to make sure everyone has come up good. But there's no injury worries, everyone is freshened up, so we're confident in the XI.

"Only having two quick bowlers, I think reverse swing is going to be a big factor and the way Starcy played last game was fantastic.

"It's always tough leaving out someone like Joshy [Josh Hazlewood], even Scotty Boland. But the class and the difference Starcy brings as a left-armer, a bit more air speed, we think that's the best chance to take 20 wickets."

Cummins added that he felt Australia could take the necessary 20 wickets needed to win the third Test, having created chances that were not taken in Karachi as Pakistan resolutely batted out more than 171 overs to hold on for a draw.

"I think what's been clear... is the way we've gone about it is the right way," he said. "I've been really happy with how everyone has gone about their work (and) the tactics. I think it's just a matter of taking those chances.

"Wickets are at a premium in this series so you can't afford to drop too many chances. We created more than 10 chances [in Karachi], we just unfortunately didn't take them, so that's going to be the challenge this week."

Australia Test captain Pat Cummins hailed his side's bowling but rued their inability to take chances after settling for another draw with Pakistan in the second Test.

The tourists were in the ascendancy throughout at the National Stadium in Karachi, having posted 556-9 in the first innings before bowling hosts Pakistan out for just 148.

Cummins opted to bat again as opposed to enforcing the follow-on for Babar Azam's Pakistan, who were set a mammoth 506 to win or to bat just under two days to secure the draw.

Led by captain Babar, who batted over 10 hours for his 425-ball 196, Pakistan decided on the latter option and their star batter was aided by Abdullah Shafique (96) and Mohammad Rizwan (104 not out).

Nathan Lyon spurred Australia to battle until the end with two wickets in two balls, dismissing Faheem Ashraf and Sajid Khan, but Pakistan held on for a famous draw.

It could have been a different result, though, given Steve Smith shelled Shafique late on day four and Usman Khawaja dropped Rizwan with three overs of play remaining on day five.

"I think the positive thing is each time we've created more than 10 chances," Cummins said. "It's probably the disappointing thing this game as well.

"If we took a couple of those catches it might be a different scenario. I walked off the field at the end of the day's play without feeling there was something I hadn't tried, or there wasn't a plan we hadn't given a really good chance at.

"In foreign conditions, we are showing that we are able to adapt and play well over here. But of course, getting so close, [being] so far ahead of the game, and not coming away with the result can feel like it's a missed opportunity."

Debutant Swepson finished with figures of 0-156 in the second innings from his 53.4 overs, but Cummins heaped praise on the spinner, along with his partner Nathan Lyon.

"I thought Swepo bowled fantastically," Cummins said. "I don't know how he's ended up with those figures. Especially that middle session, he had an umpire's call, a couple of half-chances dropped off his bowling, lots of plays and misses.

"The way he was able to be a real wicket-taking option on a really good wicket without really footmarks to the right-handers I was just really impressed with how he went about it.

"Nathan, I thought he bowled well, particularly today. Felt like he was going to get a wicket every over. When I took off him to bowl Starcy or myself, it was a hard decision to make because felt like he was so close to a wicket all day."

Asked whether he left enough time to win the Test, leaving five-and-a-half sessions to dismiss Pakistan, Cummins responded: "Overall I wouldn't change too much to do honest. 

"Batting into day three gave us that chance to really have a crack at them – probably went better than we could have expected – but over here the wickets are pretty good.

"We tried to bat two-and-a-half days on the best time of the wicket, hoping that it would break up on day four and five and it held together pretty well.

"Babar, Rizwan, Shafique, thought they all batted fantastically the last two days. We knew the wicket wasn't playing too many tricks but they batted superbly and made it really hard to get that breakthrough and when we did the next guy stuck at it as well.

"The good thing is it's nil-all, we didn't lose anything. Coming over here in these conditions, at the start of the series if you'd said it was going to be nil-all after two games you'd probably take that."

Australia will look to seal a series victory in the winner-takes-all decider that starts in Lahore on Monday.

Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan produced incredible batting displays as Pakistan hung on to claim a famous draw in the second Test with Australia in Karachi.

Pakistan skipper Babar's century on Tuesday set up a thrilling conclusion at the National Stadium and the contest was in the balance right until the end.

Babar eventually fell four runs short of a double century, while Rizwan was unbeaten on 104 to help Pakistan survive a record 172 overs in the fourth innings.

The hosts are nine Tests unbeaten against Australia at this venue and, having also played out a draw in Rawalpindi, it is now all to play for in the third and final Test in Lahore.

Pakistan started day five on 192-2 in their second innings, leaving them needing 314 runs to pull off a record chase, and hopes were high when Babar resumed play.

Babar and Abdullah Shafique crossed 200 runs, marking just the fourth time a third-wicket double century partnership had been notched in the fourth innings of a Test.

Australia wrestled back some control when Pat Cummins removed Shafique for 96 just before lunch, with Steve Smith redeeming himself for an earlier drop.

Fawad Alam (nine) succumbed to Cummins, but Babar continued to add runs and looked set for a deserved double ton.

However, he was eventually dismissed for 196 by Nathan Lyon, who then removed Faheem Ashram for a duck to keep things finely poised.

Having fended off Australia for so long, Pakistan then lost Sajid Khan (nine) and were 414-7 with eight overs remaining.

Rizwan looked to be next to go, only for Usman Khawaja to spill the chance, and from there the right-handed batsman brought up his hundred in the penultimate over.

Unable to take the final three wickets, Australia were left to rue what might have been as Pakistan reached 443-7 – 63 runs short of victory – to claim a famous draw. 

 

Babar inspires Pakistan fightback

Babar had gone over two years without a Test century prior to reaching three figures on Tuesday and went on to add another 94 runs on the final day in an inspiring display.

Flanked by supporting roles from Rizwan and Shafique, Babar, whose innings lasted 425 balls, batted for more than 10 hours in the end, though he would have loved to have reached a double century.

Lyon's best efforts not enough

All of Pakistan's hard work was nearly undone thanks to a late flurry of wickets for Lyon, who ended with figures of 4-112.

Removing Babar was a key moment in a match that proved gripping from the start, in stark contrast to a mundane first Test, and sets up a gripping finale next week.

Off-spinner Nathan Lyon says there are no dead rubbers as Australia chases a 5-0 whitewash of England in the 2021-22 Ashes.

Australia leads the series 3-0 after three dominant victories ahead of the fourth Ashes Test starting on Wednesday at the SCG.

There has been speculation about the make-up of the Australian side given they have already secured a series victory with dilemmas on Josh Hazlewood's fitness and Scott Boland's place along with talk of a second spinner in Mitch Swepson.

Lyon, who has taken 12 wickets in the three Tests, insisted Australia were determined to pursue victory and pick the best side possible.

"There's no more dead rubbers - and I've never considered them when you wear a baggy green - firstly because there's the World Test Championship and we want to go 5-0 up," Lyon told reporters on Sunday.

"If the conditions suit then we pick the best team to win that Test to make sure we keep moving forward. The Ashes for me is the pinnacle but I'd love to be part of a Test Championship final to state our case for the number one team in the world."

Australia missed out on the World Test Championship final last year, finishing third behind winners New Zealand and India. The Aussies have won the past two Ashes on home soil 4-0 and 5-0 respectively.

Lyon endorsed fellow spinner Swepson, who is set to get Test opportunities in 2022 with tours of Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India to come.

"I love bowling in partnership with spinners for sure," Lyon said. "I've done it a lot in subcontinent conditions so if the opportunity does come to play two spinners I know we'll really enjoy building that partnership. We've been doing it in the nets but it's a lot different."

Hazlewood, who has missed the past two Tests with a side injury, is expected to train fully with the group on Monday and could replace Boland who took 7-6 in the second innings of the third Test.

Jhye Richardson took 5-42 as Australia claimed a 275-run victory over England in the second Ashes Test to take a 2-0 series lead.

Australia headed into day five requiring just six wickets to take a 2-0 series lead, Joe Root's side batting only for a draw, given they needed an improbable 386 runs for victory.

Any chance of England escaping without defeat hinged on the shoulders of Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler, after the tourists' captain Joe Root fell to Mitchell Starc (2-43) on the final ball of day four.

Australia flew out of the blocks, Starc removing Ollie Pope – caught at slip by stand-in captain Steve Smith – and Nathan Lyon picking up the crucial wicket of Stokes, who was dismissed for a 77-ball 12.

Buttler and Chris Woakes then lived charmed lives, with the wicketkeeper edging Starc between a motionless Alex Carey and David Warner, while the right-arm all-rounder survived a caught-behind review from Lyon having not scored.

That England partnership lasted 31 overs before Woakes was bowled by Richardson, with Ollie Robinson following soon after as he was caught at slip by Smith off Lyon.

Stuart Broad successfully reviewed a leg before wicket decision to make it into the final session, but Buttler (26) fell in bizarre fashion, stepping on his own stumps after a 207-ball stint at the crease.

Richardson fittingly removed James Anderson, caught in the gully by Cameron Green, as England made it 12 Tests without a win in Australia (D1, L11); their joint-longest run without a victory Down Under (also 12 matches between January 1937 to February 1951).

England head to Melbourne for the Boxing Day Test needing a win to stand a chance of regaining the Ashes, while a draw would ensure Australia retain the urn yet again.

Buttler battles to no avail

Buttler, who before the Ashes insisted he would play with a carefree with "nothing to lose", battled against Australia almost single-handedly on Monday, but even his best efforts were not enough against a relentless Australia.

It was a mixed bag of a Test for the 31-year-old, who took some stunning catches, but also dropped some golden chances behind the stumps.

Contrasting fortunes under the lights

England's rear-guard almost masked multiple selection issues across the Gabba and the Adelaide Oval, but what cannot be denied is Australia's magnificent pink-ball form.

The hosts have won all nine of their day-night Test matches, the most by any side and the only team with a 100 per cent record, while England have lost each of their last four games in the format – last winning against West Indies in August 2017. Richardson was the pick of the bunch for the hosts, sealing his five-for when he dismissed Anderson.

Travis Head was delighted to see Joe Root dismissed with the final ball of day four in Adelaide, while Australia's stand-in vice-captain expects Nathan Lyon to dominate day five of the second Ashes Test.

Root's 24 on Sunday may have seen him overtake Alastair Cook (4,844) to become England's top run-scorer as Test captain, but the current skipper had little to celebrate barring yet another personal landmark in a fantastic 2021 for the Yorkshireman.

The tourists started positively, dismissing nightwatchman Michael Neser (3), Marcus Harris (23) and Steve Smith (6) in quickfire fashion to leave the hosts 55-4.

However, Marnus Labuschagne (51) and Head (51) fought back, before Cameron Green (33 not out) and Mitchell Starc (19) guided Australia to their declaration total of 230-9, setting England a mammoth 468 to win.

Rory Burns (34) and Dawid Malan (20) offered some brief resistance after Haseeb Hameed had been removed for a duck by Jhye Richardson, but the pair were soon sent packing to leave Root and Ben Stokes (3 not out) to try and save the day.

Root, though, fell to Starc's final delivery after he had earlier been hit in the groin by the left-arm quick, and Head appreciated what a big wicket the England captain was.

"Root is a huge wicket, he is in fantastic form," Head told reporters after play ended on the penultimate day at the Adelaide Oval with England 82-4.

"I have a lot of sympathy for him – it wasn't a great time to get hit.

"We got told to give him some space [on the pitch]. Starc on that line is never pretty and unfortunately with the day he [Root] has had it wasn't a great time to get hit.

"They've still got some quality players. Nathan Lyon will play a massive part, the ball is turning. It's a big day tomorrow."

England will need what would seemingly be a miracle on Monday, with Stokes – who delivered unlikely heroics at Headingley in 2019 against the same opposition – leading the charge.

England's fast-bowling coach Jon Lewis expressed his support for Stokes, who he believes is the best man for the task ahead, while hailing the valiant efforts of Root.

"Anytime one of your best players [Root] gets out, it's a knock," Lewis told reporters.

"Joe showed a hell of a lot of character to go out. There was no doubt in Joe's mind he was going out to bat and it shows what a great player and brilliant leader he is. 

"Since he got hit he stood up, he could have had a nightwatchman. He wants to show his team how hard he wants to try for the team.

"They will try to survive the day tomorrow to get ourselves out of this game with a draw. It's a big ask I know."

"Ben [Stokes] has done it before, he has done special things in an England shirt."

Mitchell Starc says he and Nathan Lyon may have also missed the second Ashes Test if they had not snubbed Pat Cummins at an Adelaide restaurant.

Australia captain Cummins was force to sit out the match at Adelaide Oval after the paceman was deemed to be a close contact with a positive coronavirus case at a restaurant.

Fellow fast bowler Starc and spinner Lyon dined at the same establishment, but were considered to be casual contacts with the person who had the virus.

Starc took 4-37 and Lyon claimed 3-58 as England meekly collapsed from 150-2 to 236 on day three in reply to 473-9 declared. Australia then closed in complete command on 45-1 in their second innings - leading by 282 runs.

Left-arm quick Starc revealed it could have been a very different story if Cummins had replied to his text message. 

He said: "It was just fortunate we were sitting outside. It was almost a bit of a p***-take because Pat didn't reply to my message so thought we'd sit away from him and sit outside so it's been a lucky one."

Starc says he did not lose any sleep fretting over whether dining out could have cost him another chance to exploit England's vulnerable batting line-up in a match Josh Hazlewood was ruled out of due to a side strain.

"Spinner [Lyon] didn't sleep. I slept quite fine, there wasn't much I could do about it after," he said.

It was revealed on Saturday that both sides will face stricter protocols for the Melbourne and Sydney Tests due to a rise in COVID-19 cases.

Players can only follow Starc and Lyon's lead and dine outside, while they must also socially distance with members of the public.

Cricket Australia chief executive Nick Hockley told SEN radio: "We need to make sure there's social distancing, so we ask everyone to be respectful in the public.

"That's the real shame because what we have seen is players wanting to interact with fans. That's been a feature of the Big Bash. But we've now got very clear protocols.

"As it comes to those on the field of play we need to make sure that people are operating in a really biosecure way."

Mitchell Starc says he and Nathan Lyon may have also missed the second Ashes Test if they had not snubbed Pat Cummins at an Adelaide restaurant.

Australia captain Cummins was force to sit out the match at Adelaide Oval after the paceman was deemed to be a close contact with a positive coronavirus case at a restaurant.

Fellow fast bowler Starc and spinner Lyon dined at the same establishment, but were considered to be casual contacts with the person who had the virus.

Starc took 4-37 and Lyon claimed 3-58 as England meekly collapsed from 150-2 to 236 on day three in reply to 473-9 declared. Australia then closed in complete command on 45-1 in their second innings - leading by 282 runs.

Left-arm quick Starc revealed it could have been a very different story if Cummins had replied to his text message. 

He said: "It was just fortunate we were sitting outside. It was almost a bit of a p***-take because Pat didn't reply to my message so thought we'd sit away from him and sit outside so it's been a lucky one."

Starc says he did not lose any sleep fretting over whether dining out could have cost him another chance to exploit England's vulnerable batting line-up in a match Josh Hazlewood was ruled out of due to a side strain.

"Spinner [Lyon] didn't sleep. I slept quite fine, there wasn't much I could do about it after," he said.

It was revealed on Saturday that both sides will face stricter protocols for the Melbourne and Sydney Tests due to a rise in COVID-19 cases.

Players can only follow Starc and Lyon's lead and dine outside, while they must also socially distance with members of the public.

Cricket Australia chief executive Nick Hockley told SEN radio: "We need to make sure there's social distancing, so we ask everyone to be respectful in the public.

"That's the real shame because what we have seen is players wanting to interact with fans. That's been a feature of the Big Bash. But we've now got very clear protocols.

"As it comes to those on the field of play we need to make sure that people are operating in a really biosecure way."

Australian captain Pat Cummins has sensationally been ruled out of the second Ashes Test against England, deemed a close contact of a person who received a positive COVID-19 test.

The news comes on the morning of the first day of the pink-ball Test at Adelaide Oval, with Queensland fast bowler Michael Neser confirmed to replace Cummins in the XI for his debut on Thursday.

Former skipper Steve Smith will captain Australia in the absence of Cummins in the day-night Test in Adelaide.

Cummins was dining at a restaurant on Tuesday and was sat nearby to someone who has since been confirmed as a positive coronavirus case.

The star paceman did not breach any biosecurity protocols and isolated as soon as he became aware of the situation. Cummins has since had a PCR test, which produced a negative result.

However, Cummins has been confirmed as a close contact by South Australia Health and will be required to isolate for seven days, ruling him out of the second showdown with rivals England.

Cricket Australia (CA) said it anticipated Cummins will be available to play in the Boxing Day Test at the MCG in Melbourne.

"Cummins is understandably very disappointed not to be able to captain Australia for the day-night Test in Adelaide," CA said in a statement.

The 28-year-old fast bowler had led Australia to a nine-wicket victory in the Ashes opener as skipper in Brisbane, after taking over from Tim Paine.

Smith's deputising marks the first time he will have captained his country since the controversial 2018 sandpaper-gate Test match in Cape Town, which led to his dismissal as skipper and 12-month suspension.

Australia may have dodged a further bullet, revealing Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon were also dining at the same restaurant but at a separate table outdoors.

Both have been deemed casual contacts by SA Health and are free to play.

Nathan Lyon said his long-awaited 400th Test wicket was a "big relief" after the Australia spinner helped the hosts crush England in the Ashes opener.

Lyon became only the third Australian to achieve the feat in Saturday's nine-wicket victory over rivals England inside four days at the Gabba.

After almost a year of waiting, Lyon brought up the milestone as Australia claimed 77-8 to roll England for 297 in the first session in Brisbane, where the tourists had resumed on 220-2 before the sensational collapse.

Australia were set 20 runs for victory and easily reached the total following lunch, despite the loss of Alex Carey, but it was all about Lyon after the first Test.

"Relief, because I'm not so much on personal milestones I had a lot of banter going on so it probably wasn't on my mind a lot more," Lyon told reporters after finishing 4-91 to take his Test haul to 403 from 101 matches.

"But I say the next wicket is hardest to get but yes, it was a big relief."

Before Lyon, only Shane Warne (708) and Glenn McGrath (563) had taken 400 wickets or more for Australia.

Lyon – who had waited since January to join the exclusive club – also became the seventh spin bowler to take 400 wickets in men's Test cricket.

"It hasn't really hit me to be honest," Lyon, 34, said. "I'll get my phone and call my family and friends and that will probably hit a little closer to home.

"But it's something I'm very proud of, there's no doubt about that. It's been some hard toil to get it, but very rewarding."

Asked if he was less nervous now after ending his wait, Lyon replied: "I'm nervous because I care. I care about everyone in that changing room, I care about the result and playing cricket and representing Australia. I'm not nervous because I'm scared of failing.

"[Captain] Pat [Cummins] was extremely calm as captain ... I think when Australia play their best cricket, we're calm and playing with smiles on our faces and enjoying it. Pat really hit that home."

England fell to pieces in a day-four Ashes collapse as Australia ruthlessly wrapped up the opening Test by nine wickets behind Nathan Lyon's historic performance.

Australia celebrated a comprehensive victory at the Gabba, where England lost eight wickets in the morning session to set the hosts just 20 runs to win, which they scored post-lunch with the loss one wicket.

Lyon had become only the third Australian bowler to reach 400 wickets as England capitulated all out for 297 in Brisbane on Saturday – the spinner leading his nation's charge with 4-91.

England emerged on the fourth day with renewed hope after Joe Root and Dawid Malan mounted a fine rear-guard on Friday – the pair's stance leading the tourists to 220-2.

 

But England's revival quickly diminished as they crumbled and were eventually all out before lunch – losing eight wickets for just 77 runs.

Lyon sparked the collapse in the fourth over of the day, the milestone man got Malan (82) to edge onto his pad for Marnus Labuschagne to take a sharp catch at silly mid-off with the second new ball approaching, snapping a 162-run partnership.

Root added three runs to his overnight score before he fell to Cameron Green (2-23) and Ollie Pope (4) followed his captain back to the pavilion the very next over after attempting to cut a Lyon delivery, instead punching to Steve Smith at slip.

Australia sniffed blood and England simply had no answer as Pat Cummins (2-51) and Josh Hazlewood (1-32) got the wickets of Ben Stokes (14) and Jos Buttler (23), with Lyon cleaning up the tail, alongside Green.

After lunch, Marcus Harris (9 not out) hit the winning boundary to clinch Australia's victory following Alex Carey's dismissal for 9.

 

Lyon joins exclusive club

Before Lyon, only Shane Warne (708) and Glenn McGrath (563) had taken 400 wickets or more for Australia. The spinner joined the club after finally ending his quest for the milestone, having waited almost a year. Lyon became the seventh spin bowler to take 400 wickets in men's Test cricket.

Carey makes history

The Gabba opener marked a Test debut for wicketkeeper Carey, who stepped in behind the stumps after former skipper Tim Paine opted to take a break from cricket. Carey capitalised, marking his bow with eight catches – becoming the first player in Test cricket to achieve the number on debut.

England's Jack Leach has said Ben Stokes' return to the squad is a "great boost" ahead of the start of the Ashes series in Australia.

Stokes has not played competitively since July and was initially omitted from England's squad as he recovered from a second operation on a broken finger and took a break to protect his mental wellbeing, but the all-rounder was subsequently added to the travelling party.

Stokes famously partnered Leach in a last-wicket stand of 76 to dramatically beat the Aussies in the third Test at Headingley in 2019.

"Obviously having Stokesy back is a great boost for all of us," Leach said. "Some of the things he's done in the past, you know, he's such an important player for us.

"In terms of the balance, it really helps things out, and it's probably good news for the spin department.

"The wickets aren't necessarily going to be really spin-friendly, but I think spin has as a big part to play in Ashes series where England have been successful.

"The spinners have got a big part to play. So, yeah, I'm hopeful I can be the guy and play that role, definitely."

On how Stokes has reintegrated into training and the squad, Leach added: "Luckily, I haven't had to face him in the nets. But yeah, he's looking really good.

"He's fit back into the group brilliantly. It's great to have him back around.

"He's been brilliant and he's such a team man. I think the group is only better for having him in it. He brings experience, I think he really brings the boys together, so that's been really good.

"He's looking good bowling and batting. I've bowled at him and he doesn't block too many balls from the spinners, so yeah, he's looked good."

Leach is hopeful of playing a part in the upcoming series, and admitted to regularly watching his Australian counterpart Nathan Lyon to pick up tips and tricks to improve his own bowling.

"I'm preparing to play, definitely. Like I do for every series that I'm involved with," he added. "For me, the best way to go about it, obviously is to try to prepare to play, and then obviously be really disappointed if I'm not.

"For years I've watched Nathan Lyon, and he's very impressive how he goes about his business. Just how strong his stock ball is and on wickets that don't necessarily offer a lot spin-wise, I think he's found ways to extract bounce and dip. So a lot over spin from him, and I think those are the kind of things I've been trying to add in.

"You take little bits from everyone you play against. I was in India looking at Axar Patel, [Ravi] Ashwin and seeing what I can take from them. So you're always doing that.

"But I think it's important not to get too caught up in that and also just stick to your strengths as well, and know that you're playing at this level for a reason."

Nathan Lyon insisted "the best gloveman in the world" Tim Paine must play for Australia after the wicketkeeper resigned as captain over inappropriate behaviour.

Paine stepped down from his Test captaincy role last Friday over a historical investigation into lewd texts sent to a former Cricket Tasmania colleague in 2017.

The 36-year-old, who at the time was found not to have breached Cricket Australia's conduct code and remained captain, is still in Australia's Ashes squad to face England, though a new leader is yet to be announced.

Batter Marcus Harris previously stated Paine has "got all the support of the players" and Lyon has echoed that sentiment towards the wicketkeeper, who was appointed captain in 2018 following Steve Smith's ball-tampering scandal ban.

"I can 100 per cent guarantee he has the full support of the Australian changeroom," Lyon told reporters as Australia prepare for the first Ashes Test on December 8.

"I don't see him as a distraction at all. Come the Gabba Test match and throughout the whole series, we are professional sportspeople, and we will go out and do our job.

"Tim made a mistake, he's owned it, for me that shows great courage to be honest. Tim has got my full support. I am looking forward to catching up as soon as we get out of quarantine.

"In my eyes, Tim is the best gloveman in the country, in the world.

"The selectors said they were going to pick the best available XI and in my eyes Tim Paine is the best keeper in the world. I want him. This is very selfish, from a bowler's point of view, I want the best gloveman behind the stumps."

Off-spinner Lyon and wicketkeeper Paine have formed a strong partnership for Australia but failed to combine for a single wicket against India in the Test series loss last time out.

Since then, Paine has undergone neck surgery in September before returning to action for Tasmania's second XI against South Australia.

Pat Cummins and Steve Smith have reportedly been interviewed by Cricket Australia amid ongoing speculation the pair will step in as captain and vice-captain respectively, much to Lyon's excitement.

"You have a bowler's mindset and a batter's mindset rather than two batters; they can come together and really come up with some good guidance," Lyon said. "I am excited by the fact we are potentially going to have a bowler as captain."

Australia will head to the Gabba with added confidence as well after their T20 World Cup win in the United Arab Emirates, and Lyon claimed there is still a buzz around the camp despite Paine's resignation.

"The mood is incredible," he said. "On the back of the boys winning the World Cup, there are only nine guys here who were part of that, but the staff too, there is an unbelievable feeling in the Australian cricket changerooms right now.

"Our preparation is flying along. I'm ready to go."

Australia spinner Nathan Lyon is expecting Ben Stokes to earn a late Ashes call-up and says he is eager to come up against England's star all-rounder.

Stokes missed England's home contests against India earlier in 2021 after announcing in July he was taking time off for his mental wellbeing and to allow a broken index finger to recover.

A second operation on that injury earlier this month preceded Stokes being left out of an initial 17-man squad for the five-Test Ashes series, which begins on December 8 in Brisbane, though he has since posted footage of him batting and bowling 

While a continued omission for Stokes, who is also not with England for the T20 World Cup, would obviously be a boost for Australia, Lyon remains hopeful he will go head-to-head with one of the best in the game.

"I'm expecting him to come. I'm expecting Stokes to be out here and, to be honest, I hope he is," Lyon told reporters at the Hurtsville Oval in Sydney, where the NSW Blues were playing an intra-squad practice match.

"You want to play against the best players in the world and Stokesy is the best all-rounder in the world. 

"He's an X-factor and he's a game-changer, and you want to play against these players, so I'm expecting Stokes to be here."

 

Stokes has 4631 runs in 71 Tests and a batting average of 37.04. With the ball, he has 163 wickets at an average of 31.38.

His absence would be a blow to an England batting line-up many feel is lacking in quality depth.

That is not an opinion shared by Lyon, though, who says he has a few surprises up his sleeve for Australia's greatest cricketing enemy.

"I've always got a couple of mystery balls," he said. "That's been the beauty about this pre-season, it's been my first ever proper pre-season. 

"I've been able to do a lot of fitness work and a lot of skills work. I've already started looking at a couple of England's batters, so that's exciting.

"They've got some very talented batters early in their Test careers. Look at Ollie Pope's last red-ball game. He got a pretty big double-hundred. 

"It's going to be a different challenge for these guys, coming out to Australia and we want that."

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